So if you didn’t already know, May first also known as “May Day” is a an ancient Northern Hemisphere spring festival and usually a public holiday, it is also a traditional spring holiday in many cultures. The Occupy movement started planning a huge protest and general strike months ago to celebrate “The American Spring.” On this year’s May Day, thousands of union workers (teachers, radio, construction, etc etc workers) and people of all kinds, sizes, and occupations joined together and took the streets world-wide requesting change and addressing that corporations are not people and for the middle class to be revived. There was endless conversation on what was going to happen on May Day 2012 but the known hot spots were going to be in Oakland and New York City. My friend sent me a text on Monday night telling me we should attend; I wasn’t too sure because I knew it was on a Tuesday and that I would have to miss class to go, but It was one of them things where I knew if I didn’t go, I’d be annoyed that I missed out on a historical experience and I figured this day would be much more important than one day of public education. I ended up replying, he picked me up at 8 – and there we went, on our way to New York City from Boston….once again.
We showed up not really knowing what the plan was. We figured it was going to get intense and if all the hype on the internet was actual fact and not just hype than I couldn’t wait to watch it all unfold. We met up with a march of a couple thousand people or so and we marched to Union Square which was the rally point. Everyone stayed on the sidewalks as the large amount of police presense told them to do so, but eventually people started chanting: “off the sidewalks, into the streets.” It didn’t take long for the thousands of people to bust through the police line keeping them on the sidewalks and the streets flourished with protesters jumping up and down with adrenaline rushing through their veins. NYPD has been known for its harsh tactics and brutality, especially towards the Occupy protesters. It didn’t take them long to pull out their motorcycles and try to regain control of the situation of protesters flooding the New York streets. They attempted to split the group in half by creating a big line with their bikes, thinking that the protesters would just stop or something because they were there, when in reality thousands of people started running and protesters were jumping over police officers on bikes and getting into little confrontations with officers as they would push and swing their billy clubs at us.
The march finally ended up at Union Square, which was packed with thousands of people already. Apparently there were at least four other marches like the one I was in to get to Union Square. A lot of people hung out here for a while and waited for the other planned march that was happening at 5:30PM. There was a stage setup with quite a few performers such as Tom Morello, Das Racist, Immortal Technique, and more. By the time it was 5:00PM the park was flooded with people. Estimated numbers went from 45,000 to 60,000 people. 5:30PM hit and the march to Wall Street started. This march was a legal march with a permit so the streets were already closed for the protesters. 50,000 or so people walked from Union Square to Wall street. The march was long, but fun! Lots of music, people giving high fives and of course it was fun to see the random rich Wall Street guy complain at a group of 50,000 people. The police presence was heavy, I’ve never seen so many cops in my life.
The crowd was filled with undercover and they were really not messing around. Reports of people who were wearing all black, who were probably thought to be a part of the “Blac Block” group (A black bloc is a tactic for protests and marches whereby individuals wear black clothing, scarves, ski masks, motorcycle helmets with padding, or other face-concealing items.The clothing is used to conceal marchers’ identities, appear theoretically as one large unified mass, and promote solidarity.) were being targeted and some even arrested. I had a police officer come up to me and tell me he was going to arrest me for wearing a bandana over my nose and mouth. Police started to get pretty rowdy when we hit Wall Street. I witnessed a few times police smash cameras and phones out of peoples hands and push them into barricades, when in reality they were really not doing anything wrong. Wall street was guarded like Area 51. Thousands of police officers were around the Wall Street bull and the entrances to Wall Street. I watched a kid jump the barricade to touch the Wall Street bull just for fun I guess, and he was quickly taken down by 15 or so police officers. He resisted and they put him in the back of a NYPD cruiser. Cops were having trouble getting him to sit in the back quietly, and eventually he kicked out the windows of the police car shattering glass into the faces of nearly 20 cops. For the most part the situation was respectful and under control. Police weren’t randomly pepper spraying everyone like they have done before and I think a lot of people showed their respect to the unions who attended. May day was easily one of the biggest days for the Occupy movement, on the East Coast at least.
The march died off, which took hours for the thousands of people to make their way down Wall Street, and a meeting was planned at another park near by. It was around 10PM now and the union workers all left the march. There was a good 7,000 – 10,000 protesters still present. The park they were closed at 10PM so police were pretty angry and threatened mass arrest on everyone inside. Surprisingly not that many arrests took place and eventually the situation just died down and everyone went their own ways.
So New York was a awesome turnout! Specially after a winter of not much going on and everyone calling the Occupy movement dead – It was awesome to see 10’s of thousands of people take the streets! Now NYC was pretty peaceful, though groups of Blac Block and anti-gov anarchists were present, there were really way too many police to do anything destructive.
IN other cities such as Oakland and Seattle it was May Day Mayhem!
Solid day of action!